>Six Sigma and Enterprise Architecture


Six Sigma is a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects. A defect is defined as nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications.

While the particulars of the methodology were originally formulated by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986, Six Sigma was heavily inspired by six preceding decades of quality improvement methodologies such as quality control, TQM, and Zero Defects. Like its predecessors, Six Sigma asserts the following:

  • Continuous efforts to reduce variation in process outputs is key to business success
  • Manufacturing and business processes can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled
  • Succeeding at achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management

The term “Six Sigma” refers to the ability of highly capable processes to produce output within specification. In particular, processes that operate with six sigma quality produce at defect levels below 3.4 defects per (one) million opportunities (DPMO). Six Sigma’s implicit goal is to improve all processes to that level of quality or better.

Six Sigma is a registered service mark and trademark of Motorola, Inc. Motorola has reported over US$17 billion in savings from Six Sigma as of 2006. (Wikipedia).

Is Enterprise Architecture another offshoot of Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Kaizen, and so on or is it different?

First what are the similarities between EA and Six Sigma?

  1. Business process improvement—both seek to improve business processes to enhance efficiency and effectiveness and improve enterprise “quality”.
  2. Performance measurement— both believe in measuring and managing results of operations and in driving toward improved performance and mission execution.
  3. Alignment to strategy—both seek to align outputs to strategic goals

What are the differences between EA and Six Sigma?

  1. Technology versus design Focus—EA focuses on technology enhancing business performance; Six Sigma emphasizes design for defect-free performance (or zero defects).
  2. Use of Information for improved decision-making versus process optimization—EA captures business and technical information to improve IT planning, governance, and decision-making (such as new IT investments); while Six Sigma captures and measures information on performance to optimize business processes.
  3. Information- versus industrial-based economy—EA aligns technology solutions with the information requirements of the business and its foundation is in the information economy; while Six Sigma’s defect-free processes are based on an industrial, engineering, and product-based economy.
  4. Information-centric versus process centric initiative—EA is an information-centric initiative that addresses information requirements, information technology solutions, information security, information access, information archival, information privacy, information sharing, and so on; Six Sigma is a process-centric initiative that addresses process inputs, outputs, controls, and mechanisms and works through process definition, measurement, analysis, improvement, and control (DMAIC).

So EA and Six Sigma share some important facets such as business process improvement, performance measurement, and alignment to strategy; however, EA is an information-centric initiative geared toward the information age, as such it takes Six Sigma into the 21st century.

>Kaizen and Enterprise Architecture

>User-Centric Enterprise Architecture and Kaizen are blood brothers — both are dedicated to improvement.

I love Kaizen! Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. Kaizen seeks “change for the better” and has been adopted by many companies in Japan as their equivalent of Six Sigma or Total Quality Management (TQM). Toyota is one of the best known and often cited examples of successfully implementing Kaizen; they have made kaizen part and parcel of their auto production process. Kaizen is an enterprise-wide endeavor. In a kaizen environment, the organization experiments to find better ways of doing things and then when these superior ways are found, they become the new standard throughout the organization.

In user-centric EA, there is also a focus on standards, integration, and process improvement. In EA, these are facilitated by the EA knowledge base of business and technical information, the analysis of problem areas and identification of gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities, and the institutionalization of regular and meaningful planning and good governance for maximizing the value of investments to the enterprise.

While kaizen is often associated with improvement to production systems including quality control, testing, and assurance, it is also a way of approaching work, education, relationships, and life — it’s when one is constantly asking “how can I do better” and actually following through (not like the typical New Year’s resolutions).

To me, EA is similar to kaizen in that it seeks to capture information, analyze it, and find ways to improve things. In EA, this search for continual improvement manifests itself by filling information gaps for users, eliminating organizational stovepipes, delivering IT solutions that meet requirements, consolidating redundant systems, and facilitating business process reengineering or improvement.

Do you view EA as a form of kaizen? How do you use EA to improve organizational processes and functions?